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2018-2019 Utah Jazz Season Review: Joe Ingles

Despite a rough postseason, Joe Ingles overcame increased responsibilities on and off the court. Looking back at Joe Ingles’ demanding 2018-2019 season.

Utah Jazz v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

When Joe Ingles signed his four year, $52 million contract to return to the Utah Jazz back in 2017, most saw it as more of a nod to Gordon Hayward than in Joe Ingles monetary value to the Utah Jazz. Gordon Hayward and Joe Ingles shared an agent—Mark Bartelstein—and this was seen as a “You scratch our back and we’ll scratch yours” type of deal. Prior to the deal, Joe Ingles was averaging 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game for the Utah Jazz. He had just entered the starting rotation after coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz as their sixth man.

My what a couple of years does for perspective.

Gordon Hayward would decline Utah’s offer and leave for Boston, and Utah would be left writing checks for Joe Ingles without the main incentive for his contract. Much like Ricky Rubio, Joe Ingles’ Jazz future was made with the idea of Gordon Hayward in mind rather than out of the picture. Without Hayward in Utah it appeared Utah could be overpaying for a role player. Luckily for Utah, Joe Ingles would outplay his contract in his first year averaging 11.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.8 assists on shooting splits of 47/44/80. He even shutdown Paul George in the playoffs.

Joe Ingles’ second year was a bit of a mixed bag and understandably so. On the court, Joe Ingles had the shoulder the role of being the main playmaker many times throughout the season as the Utah Jazz saw a rash of injuries hit their point guard position. This forced Joe Ingles to play a lot of point forward. Off the court, Joe Ingles and his family was learning more about their son Jacob who would be diagnosed with Autism.

Off the court, Joe Ingles raised Autism Awareness with his powerful piece that allowed us—the public—to learn what was happening behind the scenes. Frankly, it was one of many times that a Utah Jazz player has reminded us that what happens off the court is infinitely more important than putting a ball in a basket.

On the court, Joe took on even more of an offensive burden because of injuries to the point guard corps. What’s amazing is despite his increased usage rate—17.5% compared to 15.9% the year prior—Ingles still played all 82 games. That’s three straight seasons playing all 82 games. Joe Ingles unexpectedly became the NBA’s iron man. That might have been to his detriment some nights as a night off could have done wonders physically and mentally for him.

Despite the increase in usage rate his turnover percentage only went up by one percentage point. While he was struggling from outside—I know, struggling for Joe Ingles would be Holy Grail territory for Donovan Mitchell, Ricky Rubio or Jae Crowder—Joe was able to draw more fouls. His Free Throw rate jumped from 11.6% to 15.3%. That’s a big climb. He also saw an increase in Assist Percentage from 22.9% to 26.1%. There were many stretches this season where it was Joe Ingles—not Ricky Rubio or Donovan Mitchell—who was Utah’s best playmaker on the floor. It was

Joe Ingles shooting numbers would decline as he was forced to take more 3 point shots off the dribble (+0.2 per game) and more 3 point shots late in the shot clock (+0.2 per game). That increased playmaking responsibility may have contributed to Joe Ingles’ drop in 3 point shooting from 44% in 2017-2018 to 38% in 2018-2019. It might have caused a hitch in his trigger as he had to balance firing from deep at every opportunity with keeping his fellow teammates involved.

In the playoffs, Joe Ingles faded hard. While he was having a down year, he was still playing great basketball for his salary. In the playoffs, it looked like Joe Ingles was pushing through the last pickup game at the Y right before closing. He averaged only 6.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 2.2 steal per game on 32% from the field and 28% from three. Joe Ingles never attempted a single free throw. Not a single one in the entire 5 game series. Not what you’d expect for a five year NBA veteran with 3 years playoff experience.

Outlook for 2019-2020

Joe Ingles is set to make $11 Million with the Utah Jazz as his contract descends in value every year. Utah’s front office most likely has Joe Ingles as part of their core moving forward. They will chalk up his crash in the playoffs to a mentally and physically exhausting 2018-2019 season and assume with better playmakers and bench depth that Joe Ingles can return to his prior season numbers. Joe Ingles’ game luckily doesn’t rely on athleticism and power, but finesse and craftiness. It has the hallmarks of aging gracefully.

The devil’s advocate point of view is Joe Ingles is approaching 32 years old. His best years are most likely behind him. While his game is based on craftiness, his ability to play 82 games a year could be over unless there’s a move to the bench in the future as a sixth man. The Danny Ainge view would be to sell high and get future value back which is why Joe’s name could be heard in trade rumors this offseason. To be clear, I don’t believe Utah would be the ones initiating it, but teams could start asking.

The reason for that is if Utah wants to try to angle for Mike Conley—or another significant trade target—and decides they do not want to give up Favors in the process, the only way to avoid that is to offer Joe Ingles and/or Dante Exum as the vehicle(s). This is the consequence of failing to use the expiring contracts of Ricky Rubio, Thabo Sefolosha, and Ekpe Udoh as collateral before the trade deadline.

Joe Ingles would be a great piece for any rebuilding team because of his locker room presence. He can take on a lot of playmaking ability for any team that rebuilding with young playmakers. The players that Utah has left on contract are either great role players on amazing contracts or All-Star caliber players—minus Dante Exum. That means teams will ask for what is available in pantry even if it’s Utah’s last handful of flour.

Aside from possible trade rumors, the most important thing that Joe Ingles can do this offseason is stay in his Dad Bod God shape and get some rest. Spending time with this family and adjusting to his family’s new normal will do wonders for him next season. If the Utah Jazz can combine a rejuvenated Joe Ingles with an improved Donovan Mitchell and improved playmakers, watch out.